DOWNTOWN — For years, River North neighbors have tried to get the Bottled Blonde shut down. And thanks to a dress code flap that's drawn national attention, the chorus against the clubby restaurant has grown.
On Tuesday, neighbors will dress in "banned" Bottled Blonde clothing and go to a city hearing where the restaurant could get its license revoked. They've already given the city videos of the clubby, no-holds barred atmosphere of a place claiming to be a family-friendly restaurant.
Anne, who lives around the corner from the Bottled Blonde, said she and others in the area have to regularly call police on the restaurant to complain it's over capacity or that patrons are spilling into the alleys to vomit, urinate, drink and do drugs. She didn't have to do that before the Bottled Blonde opened, she said.
The area's "really changed in the last few years," said Anne, who asked that her last name not be used because she fears bar management. "Past dark, we don't go out. We try to stay inside or take a car. We don't walk past the Bottled Blonde."
When it opened, the Bottle Blonde promised neighbors it would operate like a family restaurant, but photos and videos taken in the business show decidedly un-family friendly scenes, including servers in lingerie and drunken patrons dancing on bars.
A resident DJ at the business, DJ Strategy, also appalls neighbors. The DJ's Instagram account, Snapchat and Facebook page show him slapping stickers that say "Send Nudes" onto semi-clothed or nude women, and taunting other women who show up at the Bottled Blonde by labeling them "designated ugly fat friends."
"I think that just kind of goes to show the kind of environment the Bottled Blonde staff fosters," the neighbor said.
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The Bottled Blonde, already under fire for its controversial dress code, could lose its liquor license. [Facebook/Bottled Blonde]
Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) said the Bottled Blonde has "generated hundred of complaints" from people in the neighborhood since it opened. It's been investigated by the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection several times, he said.
"Bottled Blonde has not been a responsible restaurant operator in River North since the day they opened and remains a chronic source of quality-of-life complaints from my constituents," Reilly said.
The Bottled Blonde has had community hearings with its neighbors, but when neighbors showed the business was not operating as a restaurant the Bottled Blonde "shift[ed] the blame," Anne said.
"I think we'd finally like to see Bottled Blonde held responsible," Anne said. "They haven't followed the rules the city put in place with them. No one's above that law. They don't get a pass because they opened up in River North and they seem to think it's OK for them to act the way they do because they say River North is some party neighborhood.
"I don't think our peace of mind is less important than them being able to have an illegal party."
Neighbors had been "suspicious" of the Bottled Blonde since before its November 2015 opening, concerned it would be similar to the chain's party-heavy Arizona location, Anne said. They were told the spot would primarily operate as a family restaurant, Anne said, but it instead acted more like a nightclub.
The city tried to crack down in September, working out a new plan of operation that emphasized the Bottled Blonde would operate as a restaurant — not a tavern — and its "primary business activity [would] be the sale and service of food."
The plan also called for the restaurant to stop working with "guest" DJs, monitor its exterior to reduce noise and "obtrusive customer behavior" and said it couldn't operate as a "dance club or venue," among other things.
But all of those things have continued, Anne said. DJ Strategy is now considered a "resident" to avoid being called a "guest" DJ, and the neighbors made videos showing the business has not changed at all since agreeing to work with the city and focus on food.
Watch the video:
The city is now alleging the Bottled Blonde sold alcohol as its primary activity but didn't have a tavern license, failed to keep patrons trying to get into the restaurant in a single line of no more than 25 people, and didn't monitor its exterior to reduce noise, littering and public intoxication, among other things.
If those charges are sustained, the Bottled Blonde could be fined or have its licenses suspended or revoked, a city spokesman said.
And earlier last week, the restaurant came under fire after its new dress code went viral online. The lengthy dress code bans patrons from wearing "obnoxious" prints, "odd-colored" pants, Jordans, men's jewelry and other items.
People flooded Bottled Blonde's social media pages, leaving it poor Yelp reviews and taking to Facebook and Instagram to slam the policy and restaurant. Many said the policy was "racist" and not fairly applied, pointing to photos from the restaurant's Facebook that show servers in lingerie or leotards and patrons — many, though not all, white — wearing items that are supposedly banned in the dress code.
One poster described the rules as "the new Jim Crow."
Representatives of the Bottled Blonde have not responded to repeated requests for comment. The restaurant removed posts criticizing its dress code policy from Facebook. At the bar Thursday afternoon, a manager who only identified himself as Rich declined to comment on the dress code or the upcoming hearings.
The full dress code:
• Bottled Blonde will maintain a classy atmosphere and reserves the right to refuse service to anyone. A high standard of dress is required at all times. Dress code is on a case-by-case basis, and is at the sole discretion of the Door Staff. In all instances, the Door Staff's decision is final. If denied entry, changing your appearance will not change the decision. The following lists are guidelines and are subject to change at any time without notice.
• No bad attitude or behavior
• No excessively baggie, sagging, ripped, dirty, frayed, overly flashy or bright clothing
• No matching colors of the shoes, hat and/or shirt
• No Hawaiian, tie dye, floral, skull prints or anything else obnoxious
A Yelp review criticizing the Bottled Blonde. [Yelp]
• No gang attire (leather cuts, colors or insignia) and no camouflage
• No embellishments or statement jackets, shirts, beanies or hats
• No rude, vulgar or offensive clothing
• No overly large purses or bags. Backpacks must be coat checked if available
• No skateboards, hoverboards or animals
• No plain white tees, long tees, denim, flannel (not even around one's waist) or zippers on shirts
• No cut-off shirts, deep V-necks, undershirts or mesh shirts. Tank tops before 6 p.m. only
• No sports jerseys (except during games and of the appropriate team)
• No Tapout, Ed Hardy, Affliction or MMA brands
• No shearling/fur, leather, jean jackets, short-sleeve hoodies or overly long hoodies
• No puffer/quilted jackets or vests and no novelty sweaters
• No hoodies underneath shirts or jackets
• No overalls, cargo, bleached/stone/acid-washed, odd-colored or leather pants
• No joggers, manpris, drop crotch pants or pants with numerous zippers
• No athletic wear, like Under Armour, sweats, gym shoes and etc.
• No compression pants underneath shorts or rolled-up jeans
• No jean shorts, and other shorts must be no longer than 1 inch past your knees
• No Jordans, Nike Air Max or Air Force [shoes]
• No high tops, high socks or athletic sneakers (Chucks and Vans are allowed)
• Shoes are required at all times (no sandals after 8 p.m.)
• Dress boots must be fully laced up (no work boots)
• Hats must be worn at all times (no stickers or tags)
• No brimless headgear
• No male jewelry (chains are not allowed in the establishment at all)
• No visible tattoos on neck, face or hands
Read the charges: